Thus fails in paedophile pledge

Telco's moral crusade against paedophiles backfires

British telco Thus has failed in its pledge to remove paedophile content from its newsgroups, amid speculation that it has lost the will to take a more proactive approach in protecting children online.

One week into its ambitious crackdown on Internet paedophiles, reports have branded the decision "unworkable", claiming that two offending newsgroups are still available on their servers.

Thus, owner of Demon Internet, is playing down criticism, claiming that it has removed 30 newsgroups from its servers in the last seven days, accounting for 90 percent of all paedophile content reported to the company by the IWF (Internet Watch Foundation). "The important thing is to catch perpetrators and while we will never be able to remove all paedophilic content from the Web, at least we are making a start," said Keith Monserrat, director of legal and regulation at Thus.

The IWF has confirmed that Thus is continuing to carry two offending newsgroups it alerted them to last September, but is defending the telco's right to self-regulation on the grounds that the "list" it supplies to ISPs is "volatile" and subject to alteration. "We are supporting Demon against the allegation that they are flouting the rules by carrying these two newsgroups," argued David Kerr, chief executive of IWF. "They reserve the right to make a decision about whether a particular group is a bad one...we are satisfied that it is legitimate for ISP's to do checks later on," he added.

Last week, Monserrat showed greater conviction about his "unequivocal" stance on child pornography. "My company and I are going to take a lead on this one -- we purport to be in a self-regulating environment, but if we don't regulate, someone else is going to," he asserted.

Concerns over paedophile activity on the Internet came to a head this month when seven Britons were sentenced for their participation in the world's biggest ever Internet pornography ring dubbed the Wonderland Club. ZDNet News has also been leading a campaign to get Yahoo! to remove adult-rated chatrooms from its Instant Messenger client. So far the portal has agreed only to remove chat facilities in the UK, which critics argue is got going far enough.

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